Astellas cuts 600 positions in Japan as new CEO makes his mark

Joining a host of other drug companies announcing slim-down efforts in recent months, Astellas is shedding 600 positions in Japan in R&D and sales and marketing. The company announced an early retirement program for eligible employees, hoping to enroll 600 staffers for an early exit.

As part of the program, Astellas will close down Astellas Research Technologies and Astellas Marketing and Sales Support, it said. It'll terminate most of the activities at Astellas Learning Institute. Further, the Japanese drugmaker plans to divest another outfit, Analytical Science Laboratories, to Eurofins Pharma Services.

Management expects to complete the restructure by the end of Astellas' 2018 fiscal year, which ends March 31, 2019. The announcement comes shortly after Astellas brought on Kenji Yasukawa to "vigorously pursue" a new strategic plan, which starts this fiscal year.

Astellas officials talked up some of the details about the plan (PDF) this week. The company said if a group of pipeline meds succeed in clinical development, the suite of drugs—combined with Xtandi—could pull in about $9 billion in 10 years. Aside from drug development, the company plans an ongoing operational review.

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Astellas joins a list of several other drugmakers that have announced efforts to trim various operations so far this year. In January, Allergan said it would lay off 1,000 employees and not fill 400 open position for a total job cut of 1,400 positions. The move came as generics approach for blockbuster eye med Restasis.

A couple of weeks later, Sanofi announced 400 layoffs in U.S. sales and marketing to adapt to an "ever-changing market," a spokesperson said.

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More recently, Hikma said it would cut 200 positions to cope with generic pricing pressure. Mylan eliminated 500 positions in West Virginia to "right-size" what it says is one of the world's biggest pharma plants.

All of the moves pale in comparison to the downsizing effort underway at Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, which is working to lay off 14,000 employees due to the serious problems it's facing.